Designed by Richard Meier & Partners Architects in partnership with Graham Design Builders, Laing O’Rourke, IBI Group, Solomon + Bauer, Arup and Glotman Simpson, the new Royal Alberta Museum was intended to be a new public space and cultural center in the downtown Edmonton area.
The Museum was conceived as a series of functional bands running east-west with administrative functions to the north, a continuous service spine in the middle, and the large exhibition areas to the south surrounded and enclosed by the unifying atrium and ramps connecting all floors. The upper exhibition floors form an enclosed box with open floors to flexibly accommodate the layout of exhibition spaces while on the lower floors smaller and more articulate “events” such as the Manitou Stone Gallery and the Auditorium/Theatre offered a dialog with the public spaces both inside, the Atrium, and outside – the Plaza, the Park, the Street.
The image of the Museum was intended to be expressive of its functional components. Its lightness and transparency and its white color is in this case fittingly analogous to freshly fallen snow, respecting the fact that Edmonton is, indeed, a winter city. The new building was going to be an open and inviting place for visitors. Its massing responds both to surrounding, large scale structures as well to the more intimate scale of the urban street level. The main plaza to the west of the museum was intended to act as an urban crossroads and the city’s “living room.”